Admission To Graduate Study
With the addition of leading researchers in economic theory, econometrics, international economics, and macroeconomics, the Economics Department at Penn State has improved dramatically in the last few years (faculty areas of interest may be found here). A consequence is that students who receive a Ph.D. from Penn State and whose doctoral research is outstanding have access to positions at leading academic and research institutions. Our recent placement record confirms this. In the past few years, some of our Ph.D. students have obtained tenure track positions in the economics departments at Harvard, MIT, NYU and Cornell. Some have obtained positions in government agencies like the Federal Reserve Board and the Federal Trade Commission. Others have gone to business schools at Chicago, Carnegie Mellon and Toronto or have joined well-known consulting firms. Our recent placements may be found here. A recent assessment of departments that places great weight on student placements ranked our department very favorably. See here for details.
Although most top-20 departments have good placement records, there are some special reasons you should consider Penn State. The program is small--about 15-19 new Ph.D. students enter the program each year--and the faculty is very accessible to graduate students. Students who are making good progress get a lot of attention from the faculty.
Penn State is located in a pleasant rural setting in the geographic center of Pennsylvania. Although it is in a small town, it is not isolated intellectually. There is an active program of visiting speakers in 5 separate workshops. In addition, the department hosts conferences. There is a twice yearly joint Penn State-Cornell conference at which graduate students make about half the presentations. In recent years, Penn State has hosted the Midwest Math Econ and International Trade Conference, and several conferences on special topics.
Should You Apply to Penn State?
Last year (for admission in fall 2011), the program received approximately 600 applications. We granted admission to 65 applicants and offered full financial aid to most of those admitted. Most financial aid is in the form of graduate assistantships, which require that the recipient carry out duties helping the faculty in their teaching or research. In Fall 2011, 17 students enrolled.
Without knowing where you stand among applicants, the above acceptance rates mean very little to you. We judge applicants by course grades and the kinds of courses taken, GRE scores, letters of recommendation, the answers to the questions on the application, and other written work submitted.
1. Grades and Courses.
Economics is unique among fields in the degree to which graduate programs at the top departments differ from undergraduate programs. The main difference involves the extent to which abstract mathematics is used. Therefore, good grades in undergraduate courses in Economics do not guarantee success in graduate school. Applicants should have taken a considerable amount of mathematics, up through multivariate calculus at least, and should have done well in it.
2. GRE scores.
We require that applicants take the 3-part general aptitude GRE. The average scores of the entering class in Fall 2011 were: Verbal = 580, Quantitative = 790, Analytical = 4.0. In judging applicants, we try to take into account that different applicants expend different amounts of effort in preparing for the GRE and that there are systematic differences among applicants from different countries.
GRE scores should not be more than three years old. Specifically, if you are applying for admission for the Ph.D. program beginning in the fall of year X, then you should have taken the GRE no earlier than the fall of year X-3. (Institution Code: 2660; Department Code: 1801)
3. TOEFL/IELTS Scores.
All international applicants must take and submit scores for the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or the IELTS(International English Language Testing System), with the exceptions noted below. The minimum acceptable score for the TOEFL is 550 for the paper-based test, 213 for the computer-based test, or a total score of 80 with a 19 on the speaking section for the Internet-based test (IBT). Applicants with IBT speaking scores between 15 and 18 may be considered for provisional admission, which requires an institutional test of English proficiency upon first enrollment and, if necessary, remedial course work. To find out more about the TOEFL scoring click here. To view the TOEFL video click here. (Institution code: 2660; Department code: 84). The minimum acceptable score for the IELTS is 6.5.
International applicants who have received a bachelor's or a master's degree from a college/university in any of the following countries are exempt from the TOEFL/IELTS requirement: Australia, Belize, British Caribbean and British West Indies, Canada (except Quebec), England, Guyana, Republic of Ireland, Liberia, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Scotland, the United States, and Wales.
4. Letters of recommendation.
We place considerable weight on, and require, three (3) letters of recommendation. Letters should be from people who know you well and who are familiar with graduate programs in Economics at leading universities. The most valuable letters are from people who can credibly compare you to others who have succeeded in such programs.
5. Your answers to the application questions and other written work.
Highly successful Ph.D. students in Economics display a wide variety of research skills, including creativity. The questions we ask on the application are intended to elicit information about those skills. Also, if you have completed a paper that displays such skills, upload it via the GRADS online application system (see below).
How and When to Apply
The application process is as follows:
1. You should first consult the Graduate School's "How to Apply" page:
which has information about the process, the documentation you will need, application fees etc.
You can then apply online via GRADS, the Graduate School Admissions site:
2. You should send us two (2) official/attested transcripts/records from each institution where you studied. These should be mailed directly to:
Department of Economics
303 Kern Building
Penn State University
University Park, PA 16802 USA
Supplementary material (for instance, copies of research papers, if any) should also be uploaded via GRADS. Letters of recommendation must also be uploaded via GRADS.
3. If you are not a US citizen or a US permanent resident, DISA will contact you with a set of instructions and a link so that you can enter your immigration information and/or upload your financial documentation directly into your electronic file once you have notified the Department that you have accepted your offer of Admission. Please note that this electronic form cannot be created or pre-completed until you have accepted your offer of admission.
If you are applying for financial aid, your completed application for the following fall should reach us by January 15. Decisions are communicated by March 15. Responses to our offers must be received by April 15.
If you are not applying for financial aid, the deadline is April 30 and decisions are communicated by June 15.
Please note that we no longer admit students for an M.A.